The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

A Definition of Insanity

Posted on | May 28, 2013 | 49 Comments

Years ago, I visited a friend’s house and watched his wife take a poll: “What do you want for breakfast?” The survey sample was quite small: Their 3-year-old son, who wasted about 45 seconds of his mother’s time before deciding which flavor of sugary cereal he wanted.

Courtesy forbade me to tell my friend’s wife she was crazy.

Sane adults do not make themselves slaves to the whims of a child.

Children are ignorant. They don’t know what kind of cereal they want for breakfast. A child is not a fit judge of what to wear to school.

A child, if left unsupervised to pursue his pleasure, is likely to spend all his time watching cartoons or playing video games, and to eat nothing but junk food. Not only is this bad for the child’s health and intellectual development, but if he is permitted to acquire such habits, he also acquires the idea that it is his right to live exactly as his chooses, without any obligation to society to make himself useful or productive.

To indulge the child in the illusion of his own competence — to surrender authority to him — is to persuade him that you, the adult, have no superiority to him in terms of knowledge or experience.

Your home cannot be a democracy; children are naturally tyrants.

Let the child have Sudetenland and next he’ll invade Poland.

People who don’t know me or my wife or our children might assume from the tone of this lecture that we are overbearing monsters and that our children are timid and fearful. In fact the exact opposite is true: Our children are confident, competent and cheerful, and my wife and I as parents are benevolent rulers, because our parental sovereignty was never in doubt — at least not to us, although the children occasionally tested us, as children naturally will do.

Well, this lecture on Successful Reactionary Parenting Methods could go on forever, but let me direct your attention to the inspiration:

“I asked my three teenage daughters what they thought.”

Good Lord! Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world . . .



49 Responses to “A Definition of Insanity”

  1. Jackie Wellfonder
    May 28th, 2013 @ 11:06 am

    “Your home cannot be a democracy; children are naturally tyrants.” –my favorite line!

  2. Da Tech Guy On DaRadio Blog » Blog Archive » “I asked my three teenage daughters what they thought.”
    May 28th, 2013 @ 11:07 am

    […] Update 3: Stacy McCain links and gets to the point: […]

  3. Linda
    May 28th, 2013 @ 11:14 am

    LOL I’ve always said if I can’t get respect from my kids, I’ll take fear, it’s the next best thing . . .

  4. Blake
    May 28th, 2013 @ 11:17 am

    The same people who criticized my ex wife and I for being to harsh on our kids were also the ones who complimented us on how well behaved our kids were.

    Anyway, I was tough on the kids when they were younger and relaxed as they got older.

  5. Evi L. Bloggerlady
    May 28th, 2013 @ 11:56 am

    The benevolent dictatorship is the point. It is a sliding scale that goes with almost 100% parental control at birth to significantly less as the child approaches 18 (but while they are under the parents’ roof they are still subject to some significant control). The point is to educate a child on how to be an adult.

    You hear about youth who cannot find a job in the Obama economy. If a child is just watching TV and playing video games, then it is the parents’ job to curtail that. There are always jobs, if it is mowing grass, pulling weeds, or shoveling driveways for people.

  6. Scoob
    May 28th, 2013 @ 11:58 am

    Right on with this post. Be a parent, not a friend.

  7. bet0001970
    May 28th, 2013 @ 12:17 pm

    I assume you’re making a larger point about Kate’s parents and what may have been going on (or not going on) in that home.

    As I’ve watched you tear this story apart over the last week, I’ve refrained from reading or making any comments. However, I have to say, one thing has struck me as grotesquely hypocritical among the Free-Katers.

    They fully expect that a 14 year old child has the emotional capacity to take responsibility for her sexual activity, but an 18 year old somehow is too young to be responsible for hers. That’s the justification. That’s really how all pedophilia is justified: blame the child.

  8. Richard McEnroe
    May 28th, 2013 @ 12:36 pm

    Stacy you need to open a restaurant so Deb and I can have a place to eat in peace, free of the shrieking lemur packs too many parents feel free to unleash on their fellow diners

    the other problem with this is that many if notmost modern “parents” have no idea what actual parenting loiks kike. Dr. Spocj’s desthbed recantation aside, they were raised themselves to believe license equals love and have no idea what discipline actually looks like.

  9. richard mcenroe
    May 28th, 2013 @ 3:02 pm

    er, “Looks like.” Sorry, typing under my desk on a small phone at work. Since I’m not a Cockney pulling a Jewish bird, “loiks kike” just doesn’t work.

  10. Squints Palledorous
    May 28th, 2013 @ 3:26 pm

    “I asked my three teenage daughters what they thought.”

    King Lear, in a nutshell.

  11. Dai Alanye
    May 28th, 2013 @ 3:38 pm

    Well put!

  12. Dai Alanye
    May 28th, 2013 @ 3:41 pm

    The Hunt family probably think Lord of the Flies is a comedy.

  13. Elena
    May 28th, 2013 @ 5:47 pm

    I can’t believe I’m saying this…but untrue. Ironically enough, my brothers and I found it amazingly difficult to find minimum-wage jobs during high school and college. It’s getting better now, but for awhile, it seemed like every fast food worker was 30, and nobody was looking for a yard-boy or girl to do the upkeep at any price or a babysitter to watch the kids every so often.

    That’s sort of why I find the whole “kids don’t want cars” thing annoying – all of my friends sure as hell wanted a car, but getting even a thousand bucks together can take quite awhile then there’s no work at the “sweeping floors” level and everything else requires an expensive credential and 5+ years of experience.

  14. Mike G.
    May 28th, 2013 @ 6:29 pm

    My parents, and me when I became a parent, believed in the board of education applied judiciously to the backsides of misbehaving kids when they are younger. Then when they got older, they were more likely to not question authority.

  15. Quartermaster
    May 28th, 2013 @ 10:11 pm

    It must be bad at your place. One of your offspring thought Benning would be an improvement.

  16. John Scotus
    May 29th, 2013 @ 12:56 am

    The worst of the lot is my four-year-old. He thinks he is the king of the roost.

  17. Carl Hardwick
    May 29th, 2013 @ 8:08 pm

    “Your home cannot be a democracy; children are naturally tyrants.”

    You’ve just explained the Obama administration, colleges, Occupy Wall Street, the MSM and Hollywood.

    Put lefitsts (aka children) in charge of anything and a childish tyranny surely follows.

    So what happens when children never grow up and form 51% of the voting population? We’re finding out the hard way and in real time.

  18. Scott
    May 29th, 2013 @ 8:48 pm

    “he also acquires the idea that it is his right to live exactly as his chooses, without any obligation to society to make himself useful or productive.”

    …is precisely where you lost me. That’s some Rousseau level, “social contract” wickedness right there. My son will be raised to be respectful, responsible, inquisitive and able. He will not be raised to believe that, through the accident of his own birth, he’s accrued some ethereal debt to your “society” which must be paid through his utility and productivity. When he’s an adult those will be his to spend, on his own terms.

  19. Dustin
    May 29th, 2013 @ 9:06 pm

    Usually it’s the parents that spoiled their kids who have to yell at them all the time. If you teach your kids to respect you, and earn that respect, you barely even need to guide them at a certain point. It’s almost as if they are maturing as they are brought up with values or something.

  20. NoDonkey
    May 29th, 2013 @ 9:32 pm

    Run your house as a benevolent dictator, otherwise you’ll be raising a bunch of Robespierres.

  21. Turning Leaves
    May 29th, 2013 @ 9:36 pm

    Remember Jimmy Carter saying in a Presidential Debate that he had asked his 13 year old daughter Amy what she thought was the most important issue of the 1980 campaign?

  22. robertstacymccain
    May 30th, 2013 @ 1:23 am

    They fully expect that a 14 year old child has the emotional capacity to take responsibility for her sexual activity, but an 18 year old somehow is too young to be responsible for hers.

    Hammer. Nail.

    Over the past 50 years or so, American culture has been a disastrous confusion in regard to what childhood is or should be. And the resulting product (I encounter them all the time) is all these cruel Young Totalitarian types who imagine that their mere desires are absolute demands which the world is obligated to fulfill. You meet young Helpless Victim types, too, but what you almost never encounter nowadays are young people who are both Strong and Kind.

    An ethos of absolute selfishness prevails among contemporary youth, which accounts for their rudeness among many other things.

  23. robertstacymccain
    May 30th, 2013 @ 1:25 am

    I believe the word is, “Heh.”

  24. robertstacymccain
    May 30th, 2013 @ 1:26 am

    BTW, I’m hurt that no one mentioned the bit of poetry at the end.

  25. Done Gone Galt
    May 30th, 2013 @ 1:45 am

    “he also acquires the idea that it is his right to live exactly as his chooses, without any obligation to society to make himself useful or productive”

    I object, on the grounds that I resemble that remark. My societal obligations do not include making others believe i am “useful or productive”.

  26. Shawny
    May 30th, 2013 @ 2:54 am

    Outside of the two facts that mama taught us kids ….lol…”idle hands are the devils workshop” so useful and productive can keep one out of trouble, …..there is also a need (rather than obligation) for humans to feel useful or productive for their own sense of self worth and wellbeing, and helpful to others for the immense satisfaction it brings. Well, and there’s that other “if you don’t work, you don’t eat” thing which is just subsistence 101 unless you learn how to steal from others at a young age….you know, like the progressives.

  27. Lee Reynolds
    May 30th, 2013 @ 4:18 am

    We have a newborn, 7 days old as of today. We’ve been learning how to care for him.

    I’ve said on more than one occasion that he’s training us. He cries…we come running. He is learning to cry when he wants something (food, new diaper, burping).

    Everyone says he is such a sweet baby, and he is, for he has always gotten what he wants, when he wants it.

    The day will come when he will first encounter the concept we call “no.” When that day comes we will learn just how sweet he truly is — or isn’t.

    If he’s anything like I was as a child, heaven help us…

  28. Lee Reynolds
    May 30th, 2013 @ 4:22 am

    Machiavelli said that it is better to be feared than loved when you cannot be both.

    He was right.

  29. Lee Reynolds
    May 30th, 2013 @ 4:23 am

    Not to mention that most of those 30 year old’s were illegal aliens working under the table.

  30. Lee Reynolds
    May 30th, 2013 @ 4:39 am

    I don’t know enough about this specific case to really say anything. What I will say is that when I was in high school (20+ years ago) it was not uncommon for seniors to date freshmen. Sexual relationships between people this age were also not uncommon. While people might have gotten in trouble with their parents over this, no one was looking to send anyone to jail.

    I have a very hard time branding an 18 year old a pedophile for sexual activity with a 14 year old. This chick may well be a pedophile, but if so then we’ll soon hear news that she was also doing things with other people who were much younger than 14.

    Actual pedophiles are a particularly vile and dishonest bunch. I’ve had the misfortune of encountering them online (in forums that had nothing to do with anything unseemly). They are pure evil, plain and simple. They want to sexually abuse children, and they make up the most extraordinary lies and sophistries to justify that desire.

    Describing sex between a 14 year old and an 18 year old as proof of the latter’s pedophilia actually plays into the hands of pedophiles. They love to argue that what they want to do to children is no different from an 18 year old dating someone a little younger. This is one of the fallacious arguments and fig leaves they try to hide behind.

    The older girl in this case broke the law, and should be held accountable for it. But to describe her actions as pedophilia inspired only weakens the moral arguments against actual pedophilia.

  31. Lee Reynolds
    May 30th, 2013 @ 4:43 am

    I don’t think you get it….

    In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,

    By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;

    But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,

    And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “If you don’t work you die.”

  32. Done Gone Galt
    May 30th, 2013 @ 6:03 am

    There are many legal and allegedly ethical ways to earn money yet realize that your activity has no real productive or useful purpose, and some don’t involve Government or education.

    There still exist also, scorned and reviled means of sustenance such as day labor, dumpster diving, metal, plastic, and/or glass scrounging and others which are actually quite useful but unrecognized as such.

    Progressives and Socialists are always ready to tell others how hard they are striving to fulfill their obligations to society.
    They are also quick to compel contributions and efforts from others.
    That “don’ t work, don’t eat” thing isn’t suppose to apply to those who spent a lifetime ‘saving’ but thanks to our Government and the FED it does for most.
    I’d rather be a fairly functional and contented oyster.

  33. teapartydoc
    May 30th, 2013 @ 7:07 am

    Decision-making has to begin somewhere. You let them decide about things that don’t matter much when they are little, and expand the range as they grow up. A child who leaves home never having made decisions under guidance and scrutiny while under a parent’s tutelage will make many bad decisions very quickly and get into a hole you may not be able to rescue them from.

  34. Eric Ashley
    May 30th, 2013 @ 8:43 am

    The Second Coming has some famous lines in it. You picked one of the most beautiful.

  35. I_Callahan
    May 30th, 2013 @ 10:40 am

    Thank you, teapartydoc. This is the crux that our host seems to have missed.
    How are they going to learn how to make decisions if you never let them, because they’re not adults yet? I’ve seen parents that make every single decision because they don’t want their child to make the wrong one. How do they know what’s the wrong decision if they never have to live by the consequences of their actions?

  36. I_Callahan
    May 30th, 2013 @ 10:42 am

    In fact the exact opposite is true: Our children are confident, competent and cheerful, and my wife and I as parents are benevolent rulers, because our parental sovereignty was never in doubt — at least not to us, although the children occasionally tested us, as children naturally will do.

    How is this at all possible? Based on the first 4/5 of your post, they were never allowed to make a single decision on their own, since indulging your child in the illusion of his own competence is to surrender authority to him.

  37. cheeflo
    May 30th, 2013 @ 2:22 pm

    Actually, it is his right to live exactly as he chooses, but he’s not living in a vacuum, either. I take it to mean that his obligation to society is to be useful and productive so as not to become beholden to society — self-sufficient, that is. I guess it is more properly characterized as his obligation to himself, and whatever benefit society realizes is secondary.

  38. cheeflo
    May 30th, 2013 @ 2:24 pm

    I liked your remark about the Sudentenland — it made me laugh aloud.

  39. Spectrm
    May 30th, 2013 @ 3:53 pm

    Maybe this just falls in line with more of the discussed ‘parenting’, but as I recall my youth: school was about learning, not dating. The guys who dated girls not of or above their class were looked down upon, and the girls who did the same were ignored (or worse).

    I wouldn’t describe what this girl did as pedophilia either (I suppose this is why we have distinctions like ‘murder’ vs. ‘manslaughter’), but it was illegal, unethical, possibly immoral, and (at the very least) in direct contradiction to the purpose school is supposed to serve – do you think this drama, before and/or after, has facilitated much learning?

    I can see what you’re saying and sympathize with the argument, I just can’t agree in any meaningful way.

  40. Spectrm
    May 30th, 2013 @ 4:08 pm

    What’s more frightening:

    I remember when I was younger, my parents frequently got compliments on how well behaved we were at restaurant, stores, &c. It didn’t happen everytime, but it was often – sometimes more than once in a location.

    Now that I have kids, we go out too. They stay near us, they keep the volume down, they make quite a mess under the table, but no where else, they wait their turn to talk to the server, they don’t peer and stare at other patrons. My mother comments that they behave better than my siblings and I did.

    Yet, in over 50 outings in the last (nearly) 4 years, I can count on 1 finger the number of compliments we’ve ever received, and it was when my son was 3mo on an airplane to Boston and didn’t make a peep the whole ride.

    I’m not looking for accolades – that’s not why I raise my kids as I do. But we’ve had to deal with sh*t-*ss comments from a stewardess (yes…I’ll call this c-u-next-Tuesday a stew, not a flight attendant), dirty looks from other people in the restaurant, being shoved in the back corner of the restaurant – or in an entirely different and empty room. We now prefer to sit in outdoor eating areas when possible. But my kids have never acted up in a restaurant.

    Now, I start wondering about why this is – why no one makes the observation anymore. The answer seems twofold:
    1) most ‘parents’ don’t know what it means to have a child behave in a public place (it’s often explained away as “well, he’s a good baby” – as if parenting had nothing to do with it)
    2) most people have a disdain for children (and I would say adulthood in general, but that’s a digression).

    To wit: my wife and I were once at a restaurant on the N Side of Chicago. My son was still in his stroller/carseat sleeping (we didn’t have the other two yet). Not a peep was made. My wife and I ate and enjoyed some conversation despite the constant looks of other patrons at us, then our stroller. I noticed one patron seemingly increasingly agitated. He also kept walking up to the hostess podium, talking briefly, and going back to his table, more agitated with each iteration. While I was halfway through my post-lunch coffee, this guy walks to the middle of the room – about 8 feet from our table across another set of chairs and table – before proclaiming loudly, point at us: “Why can’t you breeders be more like civilized people and leave the mutants at home” before leaving without paying his tab (I was told by the server later).

    I don’t know what kind of ‘civilization’ this guy lives in, but I want no part of it.

  41. Spectrm
    May 30th, 2013 @ 4:17 pm

    Forest for the trees, man. It was a rhetorical flourish. The ‘obligation to society’ is to not be a burden on the same. To say, however: your son will not be able to take care of himself if he is only ‘able’ in a work that the world does not need. Is personal efforts must be useful to society in order for him to sustain himself. This is not a pre-incurred debt but rather an ongoing demand/duty. In order for him to earn his daily bread, he must convince the baker – or someone who has clout with the baker – to acknowledge the value of his work.

    You sound as if you’d argue as a libertarian, but you make all the mistakes a tyrant makes when characterizing libertarianism.

  42. Spectrm
    May 30th, 2013 @ 4:18 pm

    Yeah – and he turned out to be a winner, eh? /sarc

  43. Spectrm
    May 30th, 2013 @ 4:22 pm

    I was going to respond but then I read: “I’d rather be a fairly functional and contented oyster.”

    Good-day, then.

  44. Kjel Holmberg
    May 30th, 2013 @ 6:11 pm

    Benign neglect has worked pretty well for me. The boys are healthy and smart and happy, and of course I love them and do Dad stuff (coach their teams, go to their swim lessons, make them do homework, etc) but in general they are in charge of themselves. The important thing though is that they know who the Alpha in this pack is and to remind them as needed.

  45. Lee Reynolds
    May 30th, 2013 @ 6:56 pm

    School is not an environment defined solely by the people who are paid to be there. The students who attend a school have a profound say in defining their environment, and for teenagers that means opportunities to meet and mingle with others their own age. Socializing is such an important part of the school experience that an entire genre of fiction exists which deals with nothing else. The Breakfast Club didn’t say anything about Algebra II.

    When I look at this specific situation, I see something that might have easily happened when I was in school. A senior is dating a freshman or sophomore without her parents knowing about it. When they do find out, they do everything in their power to ensure that the full weight of the law is brought down upon that senior. Such things did happen every so often when I was younger, though the penalties were not what they are today. Meanwhile other such couples are either ignored, accepted by the parents in question, or at worst scolded by their families and made to separate.

    I had a good friend when I was in high school who was dating a senior when she was freshman. Most girls her age were eager to date upperclassmen, and the upperclassmen were generally happy to oblige if the girl in question was cute enough, which my friend definitely was. I know for a fact that she and her boyfriend were not chaste with each other. She was 14 at the time and I believe he was 17. Her parents accepted the relationship, though I doubt they were fully aware of how involved they were with each other. This was 23 years ago at this point. I didn’t think anything of that relationship at the time, and even now I’m not troubled by it, though I would keep a close eye on any daughters of my own at that age.

    My point is that, left to their own devices, people this age will do what comes naturally. We as a society are right to keep close tabs and ensure that things don’t go too far, but it is not right nor rational to classify such relationships as pathological. Otherwise every guy in high school would be defined as a sicko.

    The gay vanguard is trying to pretend that this is all about this chick being a lesbian, rather than about the ages involved. Probably some truth to that when it comes to the actions and attitudes of the younger girl’s parents, but that really doesn’t matter. The law defines sexual acts between an 18 year old and a 14 year old as a crime, end of story. I don’t think sex offender status etc, etc, is warranted, but it was no secret that such penalties would be applied. The older girl should have known better. She should have found someone more age appropriate, or at the very least ensured ahead of time that her intended girlfriend’s parents would accept such a relationship. She didn’t do any of this, and so she’s going to pay the price.

    Wrongdoing is occasionally punished, incompetence almost always.

  46. Done Gone Galt
    May 31st, 2013 @ 1:21 am

    That sharp witticism truly deserves to be the last word but I must convey my admiration for it. Touche’

  47. Yay! It’s What the F**k Friday! | Sense and Snarkability
    May 31st, 2013 @ 11:43 am

    […] “Your home cannot be a democracy; children are naturally tyrants.” Words to live by. […]

  48. Spectrm
    May 31st, 2013 @ 3:04 pm

    I agree with your full analysis save one thing:

    The purpose of ‘school’ should, like all other products or services, be defined by the person paying for said product or service: e.g. the parents.

    If dating is a part of what they want their kids doing in school, so be it. But even when I was young, I was there for the reasons my parents wanted me there, not for my own reasons. Why? Because they foot the bill. Principally, *THEY* are the ones receiving the service, not the child.

    Very enjoyable exchange so far.

  49. Lee Reynolds
    May 31st, 2013 @ 8:42 pm

    The kind of control you’re talking about depends on the power to withhold payment. I get it my way at Burger King because I can take my money elsewhere. Parents don’t have that option because our schools are socialized. Taxpayers foot the bill and we the people get stuck with what we’re stuck with. If all schools were charter schools, or most kids were home schooled, then parents would have the power to more greatly define what happens.

    As things stand, they do not. The parents spend their days at work, disconnected from what goes on in the school their kids are attending. They are not there to influence things, and they don’t have the power to refuse payment. Therefore they have no control, even though they’re ultimately the ones footing the bill. Welcome to the world that exists when government is put in charge of something.

    What should be and what is are two very different things. Politicians should be honest and act on the behalf of their constituents. They aren’t and they don’t. Schools should exist to educate the young, but they primarily act as mass babysitting facilities so parents are able to work during the day. Some education sometimes takes place, but this is secondary to the need to keep an eye on the kids. This is also the reason for the recent push for taxpayer funded preschool. It isn’t that anyone expects children 2 and 3 years old to learn anything, though that is how this scheme is being sold. No, the reason for the push is so that mom doesn’t have to take time away from her important career to care for her kids or shell out hundreds of dollars each month to pay a private babysitting facility.

    Public schools are a place where the lunatics don’t quite run the asylum, but sometimes come close. They are closer to prisons where the warden and his guards are usually just barely in control of what would otherwise be chaos. Imagine 1,500 teenagers let loose in an environment without any constraints on their behaviors. It would be like Stalingrad without bullets.